Enclosed below is my little eulogy to Mr. Orange.
My heart will always echo a faint eko keeko. I recall a time that now feels like a haze when I felt very strongly that my next cat would be orange. I looked everywhere, and no one had an orange male cat until I came to one special place with many cats.
“Do you have an orange male?” I inquired.
“Actually, I think we do. One second here, let me see.”
They returned with the most pathetic, mangy orange thing you can imagine. Why the pursuit of orange? My family seemed to have some affinity to the color orange. We had orange cats before, as well as an orange dog, an orange hamster, and even orange guinea pigs.
And I knew that this orange scruff was the right one for our family. I confirmed this when my dad saw him and said he would be beautiful. Indeed, he was more beautiful than anyone could have foreseen. It was not just his looks, but his heart. Can words suffice to describe this? Lots of love was poured into this cat, so much so that when my baby brother accidentally knocked him down the stairs, he became even more timid, gentle, and loving.
This love was revealed to us when I brought home a baby orange hamster. Orange would play and play with this little hamster, batting it ever so gently. He even protected it from his wife, a gray kitten who would swat the hamster so hard that it would do seven rolls and then land on its back, hyperventilating and making a sound I never knew a hamster could make. Well, Orange would come and pick up the hamster by the scruff of the neck and put him into his cage. He then pushed the wheel for him to help him calm down.
When Orange became a father, we were concerned about letting him see the babies. Every cat care book we read said that the male cats tend to be aggressive around kittens. But Orange was different. He loved them all as soon as he saw them; he did not mind taking care of them when the mother needed a break.
Orange, or Eko as we sometimes called him (because that was the sound he made when he meowed), was my dad’s cat. They were companions, and both could relate to one another. After my dad’s stroke, he spent a lot of time just talking about Orange, so much so that my friends started to tease him about it. Orange became very sad and distant after my dad passed away.
Shortly after Dad’s passing we were all separated, and our cats found themselves homeless. We tried to see and feed them the best we could, and I watched as Orange and Mom really bonded. Orange was her connection to Dad; all memories had to be maintained lest they slip away.
Mom never gave up on Orange. She would always look for him and go the extra distance to make sure he was fed. Sometimes she even had to save him from fiascoes, like when he got trapped in an abandoned house. Oh, how many cold and lonely nights did he bear? How much can one supersensitive cat who would once suck on our ears for comfort, how much could he take? How much longer could he hold on?
And hold on to what? Hope or faith that one day we would have a place to call our own? Hope for a place or a world where people were not separated from their animals? Hope for a world where such separation would be seen as a crime, and where society would prevent this in any way it could? How does one explain stupid society living situations to a cat? How do you explain things like money to them? Or places that do not allow pets? All the complications of human regulations?
An animal is like a child when it comes to explaining things like this to them. They have a simplicity to them. All they know is love and loyalty, and for them not to get this is to put them in shock, confusion, and frustration. They can never thrive without love. The animals know we are meant to be a team. It was a match made in heaven. It is clear that we need each other. An animal’s love and dedication has given us a good many gifts and vice versa. These connections, these heavenly ties are worth holding on to.
Some may say we were selfish for not just letting them go to a better home rather than enduring all of this. And had I known what was going to happen, I might have done just that. Do animals need to justify themselves to the world? So was it wrong to dream and be optimistic, to think that things could turn out for the best and not the worst?
The thing is we eventually did let his wife, Mrs. Phat, have a happy home, and she changed and forgot who we were. I now understand how devastating it must be for a mother who has to give her child up for adoption only to be reunited later on, and the child has no clue who the mother is. When they do find out, they feel upset and rejected. This is heartbreaking and devastating.
Our cats went to an animal shelter after we became homeless. When we went to visit them, Orange, who was in a cage, came close to us. He knew who nurtured him. He was not easily able to connect with others, nor were we easily able to forget Orange. No animal should feel rejected. I felt that apologizing and trying to explain our human ways was just not good enough and seemed like an excuse—a cop out. “Sorry, that’s just the way the world is, and it sucks.”
All the while all over the world, other people and animals are being ripped from each other and it keeps going on and increasing. This so-seeming enemy seems to hurt us in any possible way, which even includes going after our animal connection. What magic is it between human and animal that such earnest effort has been dispensed in order to sever the connection? To hurt them was to hurt us and vice versa. Did the animals know this when they came to Earth with us? Did they know of the price the risk of loving us as deeply as they do?
Mom started to wonder why I did not visit the cats as much as her. It was not that I did not love them or care. It was more their unbearable stare, the longing in their eyes and all those good-byes. Not to mention all the excuses. I just did not want to do that anymore. So even if we did get a place, yes, my cats and I would be together, but what about the others? Would this fix the problem as a whole? This is one the major reasons that I felt so fueled in epic proportions to change this world we are in. And how do you explain that to a cat?
How hard it must have been for Orange and the others to stay at the cat orphanage—a place of broken kitty hearts, where my cats had to endure all the sad stories as to why the other cats were there, where some just had owners who did not want them any more. How did Orange know that the same thing would not happen to him? Did he deny what all the other cats told him? I can imagine him saying, “You are wrong. You will see. My owners will come for me. They just keep saying this odd word that I do not understand—temporary.”
My intuition was intact enough to get Orange out of that place at just the right time, and we felt that the farm would be ideal. But Orange did not think so. He escaped. Two weeks we searched for him, but no sign of our Orange. Then finally we got a lead. He was seen hanging out at an old barn by the bridge, but he did not stay there long. Oh where, oh where could he have gone?
We received a call a short time later. Orange was found back at the place where we used to live when Dad was alive. Mom took him back to our friend’s farm where he died in Mom’s arms. I was told he died because of organ failure from going so long without food. But I do not believe this. To me, Orange, you passed away for the same reason as my dad, from so much time trying, hoping, and disappointment. The heart can only take so much.
Now you are with Dad.